Reflections on taking the Quantic Executive MBA

Reflections on taking the Quantic Executive MBA

Lessons Learned

As someone who has never liked university study and for whom the prospect of doing another degree evoked a mixture of boredom and dread, Quantic caught my eye for several reasons.

Danu Poyner is the founder of Grokkist. This is an honest review and not a paid promotion.
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I started Quantic's Executive MBA program in late 2020 and graduated in February 2022. I never imagined myself doing an MBA program. I even have a print of this cartoon framed on my wall at home:

1992 New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner

Nevertheless, as someone who has never liked university study and for whom the prospect of doing another degree evoked a mixture of boredom and dread, Quantic caught my eye for several reasons:

No video lectures
Finally, an online-first school that doesn't simply try to replicate the worst aspects of traditional classroom education – lectures, textbooks and tedious assessment. Lessons are instead delivered as a series of interactive micro-case study chapters that take around 5–7 minutes each to complete. I would sit on the balcony with my iPad for around 30 minutes each morning to do these over breakfast and coffee and it was delightful.

The content is what you'd expect in an MBA program: a mix of accounting, economics, finance, leadership, operations, marketing, strategy and data analysis. It's pitched at the right level for someone who wants to be fluent in all aspects of business administration, and there is a particular slant towards startups and the tech sector. I learned a great deal about each of these topics and even enjoyed the ones I wasn't expecting to (I'm looking at you, accounting!)

Distilled concepts and vocabulary
The main value I got from my earlier university studies was a set of concepts, categories and vocabulary to think with. This has been extraordinarily useful, but mostly to be honest it has come from my own reading and coffee catchups with the lecturers I liked outside the classroom.

Quantic has thought carefully about this. After you complete a sequence of interactive case study chapters, you unlock a downloadable summary sheet of relevant concepts and vocabulary. I refer to these often and I love having 'the gist' presented in this way. We tend to only really retain information if we use it at the point of need, so this is a great way to be able to quickly immerse myself in a topic again.

Probably half of the value of doing a program like this is making connections, and Quantic have designed this intentionally into the program rather than as a bolt-on extra. Programs run in cohorts of (I think) around 150–200 people and there is a Slack channel (although to be honest I didn't use this as much as I thought I would). There's a portal where you can search for current students and alumni by location or expertise etc, which I also haven't used very much but it's nice to have.

The real networking value for me has come from the events program and the student organisations. Each month there are online events on various topics (book club, documentary club, industry-based or location-based meetups, expert talks) and these are a great way to meet interesting people. Since they are completely optional and unrelated to assessment, there is no bullshit or contrived participation, just people who want to be there. There are also in-person conferences but I haven't been able to go to those because covid.

Since the people doing this program are mostly drawn to it for reasons of access and/or willingness to try something different, there are a lot of interesting people to meet and I have made some great and lasting global connections.

The Executive MBA program cost me USD$8,800, which is a fraction of what it would have cost me to do an equivalent traditional university program. But even if the university program cost the same, I would far prefer the Quantic experience. The regular MBA program is fee-free and is funded by shifting the cost to employers wanting to hire graduates.

The alumni experience provides ongoing value. Quantic are continually adding new lessons and content, all of which are available at no extra cost to past students, and I am still able to participate in the events programs and student organisations.

A few other general observations:

The first thing university people tend to ask me about Quantic is – is it accredited? I am not someone who cares very much about credentials, so this sort of thing has basically no bearing at all on my selection, experience or enjoyment. Your mileage may vary. But it turns out Quantic is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in the US and is no doubt working on the other ones of note, which will take time because Quantic is still relatively new.

At the end of each interactive case study lesson there is a 'Smartcase', which follows the same lesson format but serves as a practice exam for credit. There are also exams for each overall module, which are an extended version of the same lesson format lasting 1–2 hours and which can be taken during a 48-hour window anytime during an appointed calendar week.

There are also individual and group case study projects and a final capstone project in which you and/or your group have to prepare a full business plan for a real, imagined or proposed company.

Assessment is the part I usually enjoy least about any course (I don't really care about passing tests). I didn't especially enjoy this assessment either if I'm honest, but I didn't actively dislike it either, and I acknowledge the needfulness and utility of it, especially the capstone project, which I suppose I did enjoy in retrospect once it was finished!

Overall, I would have no hesitation recommending Quantic to anyone interested in acquiring a generalist's set of business administration skills. Here's a video from their website that is a good summary of what to expect:

Danu Poyner

Danu is the founder of Grokkist and host of the Still Curious Podcast. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has a career that has become more squiggly than a Norwegian fjord.